The families of six people who died at a West Virginia Veterans' Affairs hospital have tentatively reached settlements with the U.S. government, attorneys for the families told CNN.
The deals come after Reta Mays, a former health care worker at the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center, pleaded guilty in July to seven counts of second-degree murder and one count of assault with intent to commit murder. Her plea acknowledged her admission in killing seven veterans by injecting them with lethal doses of insulin.
The settlements for families of six of the elderly veterans range from $700,000 to $975,000 each and remain tentative until a court approves them in November, according to Dino Columbo, the attorney for one of the families.
The veterans whose deaths Mays pleaded guilty to died between July 2017 and June 2018 from severe hypoglycemia, a condition characterized by lower than normal blood sugar that is a known effect of administering insulin to a non-diabetic patient or administering more than the prescribed dosage to an insulin-dependent diabetic patient, court documents from the murder charges said.
None of the patients required care in the intensive care unit nor were they close to death when they died. Some were not even diabetic, according to court documents. Like all nursing assistants at the medical center, Mays was not authorized to administer medication, including insulin.
Video above: Fired nursing assistant being charged with murder in fatal insulin injections at West Virginia VA hospital
Measuring the worth of their loved ones' lives
Tony O'Dell, the attorney for the other five families that settled, told CNN Sunday the families are "very pleased" that the government "paid what was available under the law."
The settlement amounts vary depending on factors including age, a patient's activity and overall health and whether that person was receiving a pension, O'Dell said.
Columbo said the government settled with his client for $700,000, which was the "maximum available to the family because of the cap placed on medical malpractice cases involving wrongful death cases by the West Virginia Legislature."
"Based on what we could get under West Virginia law, we did as well as we could have," O'Dell said, adding that he believes the caps show that the "lives of their loved ones are worth less (in West Virginia) than in states without caps."
O'Dell thanked Sen. Joe Manchin, who he said "worked in the background" in assisting with the settlements and gathering information for the families.
In a statement issued Saturday, Manchin said the tentative settlement "is further evidence that the VA and the Clarksburg VAMC were negligent in the murders that happened under their watch."
"I hope Reta (Mays') recent guilty plea and the settlements announced (Saturday) bring peace of mind to the victim's families, but money and an admission of guilt can't bring back their innocent loved ones," Manchin said in the statement.
Manchin also urged VA Inspector General Michael Missal to conclude and publish a report on the deaths at the hospital.
"West Virginians deserve to know what happened, and a detailed report on the VA decisions, policies, and procedures that allowed these murders to happen is the first step," Manchin said.
Deaths at the hand of a nursing assistant
Concerns were first raised by a medical doctor at the facility in June 2018 after several patients, including many non-diabetic patients, suffered unexplained hypoglycemic esisodes in a part of the medical center known as Ward 3A, court documents said.
Mays was removed from her position in patient care soon after those concerns were raised.
In August 2019, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it was investigating 11 suspicious deaths at the facility and was looking into "potential wrongdoing."
"This case is particularly shocking because these deaths were at the hands of a nursing assistant who was entrusted with providing compassionate and supportive care to veterans. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims," The VA Office of the Inspector General said in a statement at the time of Mays' plea.
"Within a matter of days of learning of the suspicious deaths at the facility, VA OIG agents identified the defendant as a person of interest. Working with medical facility leaders, the defendant was immediately removed from patient care. Without critical investigative actions being taken so expeditiously, additional lives could have been lost."